If you’ve been on a Delta airplane in the past 17 years there’s a good chance Derek Snider, an aircraft maintenance paint technician, painted your plane.
But among the hundreds of planes Snider has touched since 1998, no aircraft has had a stronger emotional connection than Ship 1821, Delta’s famed "Pink Plane" - a Boeing 767-400ER Delta rebrands each October for breast cancer awareness month. When the freshly painted jet left the Atlanta Technical Operations facility wearing a new livery before it departed full of breast cancer survivors on Delta’s annual “Breast Cancer One” flight, Snider reflected on his own family’s experience with the disease.
Snider’s mother Bonnie was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2003. She endured several rounds of chemotherapy and a half mastectomy before eventually being declared cancer free.
“This plane and Delta’s work to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and fight to find a cure means so much to me,” Snider said. “I’ve been painting planes for well over a decade but this is the plane I get most excited about.”
Each of Delta’s fleet of more than 700 mainline aircraft is repainted every few years in Atlanta as well as other Delta facilities across the country. So when Snider and several others in Delta’s paint shop heard the Pink Plane was set to be repainted at an alternate facility, they worked quickly to adjust the schedule and appeal to TechOps leaders to make sure this special aircraft remained in their artful hands.
“It’s an honor and a point of pride for us to paint this plane,” Snider said. “There are so many of us in the paint shop who have been affected by breast cancer in some way, we just couldn’t let such a special plane be painted by anyone but us.”
It’s a labor of love for Snider, who credits his mother with helping him land the job at Delta 17 years ago after she talked him up to some Delta employees who frequented the restaurant where she worked. Snider’s brother is an Iraq War veteran and also works at Delta as an aircraft maintenance technician.
“Because of what our mom went through and what so many others here at Delta have experienced, it really has opened my eyes to just how many families are affected by this disease,” he said. “We were fortunate to have the outcome we had, but it’s so important to me to play my small part in Delta’s fight for a cure. It’s an honor to work for a company that is so involved.”
Referring to Delta’s support of survivors with the annual survivor flight, he added, “It’s just one of many ways Delta is a family. For important things that impact all of our lives, like breast cancer, we have something special here at Delta, we pull together like a family and that’s what’s so great about this place.”
Delta’s TechOps teams have gone well above painting an airplane to support the cause. In October, they continued fundraising efforts by selling pink safety glasses and a couple of tricycles used by technicians to navigate the nearly mile-long facility have been painted pink.
Since 2005, Delta employees, customers and their friends and family members have raised more than $9.2 million for BCRF, including last year’s $1.3 million. The collective contributions have funded the vital work of 37 research projects.
To further raise awareness and support for breast cancer research in October, Delta employees wore pink uniforms and sold pink products, including pink lemonade and pink headsets, on board and in Delta Sky Clubs. Proceeds from the airline's pink products benefit BCRF.